2020 was a monumental year for the Civil War Round Table Congress. We decided to file for non-profit status by first becoming a legal entity in the State of Washington and then through the IRS. We officially became a 501(c)3 on March 4, 2020. That required us to establish a board of directors, develop and adopt by-laws, acquire and learn an accounting system, adopt a new logo, understand state and federal reporting requirements, and develop the ability to reach out to others through social media. It has been a lot of work, but all-in-all a satisfying journey.
Since 2016, we have been expanding our efforts to reverse the trend of Civil War round tables (CWRTs) closing their doors due to a lack of members. Our vision is for CWRTs around the world to be vital, strong, and thriving. As our formula for achieving that vision has evolved, we decided to lead by example. We began to use different channels of social media to connect with CWRTs including Facebook, a resource-filled website, Mail Chimp for email dissemination, and Zoom for video conferencing. We have witnessed some local organizations following our lead and others who have sought our input into their implementation challenges.
By initiating an annual report for 2020, we wanted to showcase the real transparency and the contributions of so many others who value the viability of CWRTs. Our ongoing efforts to assist round tables could not have succeeded without the many historians, authors, lecturers, and Civil War enthusiasts who gave new life to their sequestered communities by devoting their time, talent, and resources in bringing the stories of the Civil War to others.
And then there are the multitude of donors who have supported us financially. New organizations have both expected and unexpected expenses that can drain treasuries. So, we are very thankful for the many people and organizations that have and continue to donate to the cause helping Civil War round tables survive. We feel we have an obligation to those supporters to show them how their donations have been used and how we, as a non-profit, are working on their behalf.
Being sensitive to the negative effects the pandemic has had on nonprofits in general, we decided that it was in the best interests of the Civil War community to assist them in their marketing, membership and/or fundraising. So, we launched an initiative to assist them by holding online interviews of their leaders. It was not only interesting, but fun to discover their many accomplishments and how they are organized.
We also know that there are plenty of CWRT members who have not heard about us. Since our email list is not extensive, through friendships and by association with those that do receive our emails, we have reached a lot of individuals, and by inference their CWRTs through our lectures, interviews, living historians, and calls to action.
As the world begins to heal and we put the pandemic in the rearview mirror, the Congress anticipates that some round tables may continue to operate in a “hybrid” model. That is meeting both in person and using online technology. Some CWRTs have actually experienced membership growth by using online tech. We hope to share ways to enhance organizational reach, expand membership, and partner with other civic organizations and other round tables. And through our quarterly newsletter, The Light Post, we are sharing how CWRTs are achieving positive results through dedication and innovation.
The CWRT Congress will continue to work on behalf of all CWRTs, helping to address those issues and challenges that stand in the way of thriving. More importantly, we will continue to celebrate with you the love of Civil War history.
You can download our 2020 Annual Report on our website at http://www.cwrtcongress.org/annual-report.html. We’d love to hear your comments and perhaps how we can improve our report. Please send your remarks to firstname.lastname@example.org.